My husband tells me I’m as subtle as a sledgehammer.
He might be right.
I have a habit of putting my foot in my mouth and not even knowing it. I’m sure we all have a clueless Aunt that walks around the family BBQ sloshing her wine and dishing out back-handed compliments. I fear that will be me in 20 years.
‘Hello Darling! I love your dress, it would be gorgeous in a smaller size!’
Actually no, I’m not that bad.
I do things like stating the obvious. When we’re trying to get 4 families together in the weeks leading up to Christmas, every single person is booked from now until February, I am the one who says ‘Why don’t we just forget the obligatory Christmas feast for now, we could catch up separately when we each have time?”…
Whoopsie. I know, and my husband knows, that my use of the word obligatory is in reference to another I’m-not-sure-more-food-is-really-necessary Christmas Dinner, but others might think it refers to my attitude toward attendance of a family gathering. A family gathering that wasn’t going to happen because everyone is far too busy and I thought someone needed to say so. It never occurred to me that my words could mean anything else.
Or after being stood up by a friend for the 3rd time in two weeks, “I’m sorry I can’t make plans on the fly with you anymore” translation – I don’t need a contract in triplicate, but I do need a confirmation phone call now.
Apparently that’s offensive.
Huh, I thought not showing up was offensive.
Because it is not my intention to be hurtful, I usually don’t even realise I’ve upset someone, not until I hear it on the grapevine and then there I am thinking ‘but but….but I, but I was just stating the obvious…I wasn’t meaning to be hurtful!”
And then I feel really bad about causing upset, because that is never my intention. I do not use honesty as justification to be an asshole. I value my relationships and to me, anything other than authenticity in personal relationships is the beginning of the end.
It is cliché` but I do think that honesty is the best policy. My husband tells me that honesty is only the best policy for those who can handle it. He says I should consider the audience before I launch my own brand of brutal honesty. I should choose my words based on whom I am talking with. I need to learn to ‘sugar coat’ things sometimes.
I say, to hell with that…no way, well maybe.
OK, I’ll explain.
I treat people the way I want to be treated myself. If I don’t know you I’m ok with wearing the social facade that we all wear. If i don’t know you, I am happy to wear my mask and expect that you will do the same. When you say “Hi, How are you?”, I will say fine when I’m not fine because you were only asking to be polite and I know that. Social pleasantries are totally acceptable with people on the outskirts of your life and I don’t see it as dishonest in any way. It simply is what it is.
If you are my friend, brother, sister, in-law, parent, or close family friend; if you are considered family, if we have a relationship, you get me without the social mask. If you ask me how I am I’m going to tell you the truth. Good or bad. I will tell you what everyone is whispering about you. If your obnoxiously rough child hurts mine, I’m not going to fume behind your back and say ‘oh no it’s fine, kids will be kids’ to your face. If I have a problem with you, you will be the person I talk to. I’m not going to be pissed with you and then tell everyone but you. I’m not going to wear a smile for you, that would be a mask, and you, my friend, deserve authenticity.
I want and expect people to be honest with me too.
Not only can I take it, I prefer it.
I am drawn to people who are brutally honest. I like to know where I stand, good or bad. There are a handful of truly honest people in my life and I find that when I see their honesty as refreshing, others tend to see them as abrasive. I don’t care, I know without doubt I can trust every word that comes out of their mouths. I know that they wont try to skirt around a delicate issue, or try to avoid a difficult conversation. I know that what they say is what they believe. They are not evasive in any way.
For me the definition of true friendship and true acceptance is the ability to be wholly who you are. To own what you feel and say what you believe. There are no limits, there is no censorship. No excuses for anything other than authenticity. There is no room for wishy-washy.
Your opinion, or the reality of you as you are, your beliefs your values, your insights might not be the same as mine but that does not make me right and you wrong. It does not make you right and me wrong. It means that our perception of a situation is coloured by the filter of our life experience. And our experience of the world is all we have, it is our only yard stick.
That is why I don’t ‘sugar coat’ anything. That is why I advocate honesty. I don’t take your choice of words personally or your opinion personally because it is yours and you own it. Your perception is your perception and it is just as valid as mine. I naively assume that the same acceptance and understanding is afforded me and my opinionated big mouth. Not so.
I kid you not, I only just realised recently that not everyone thinks this way. My husband told me that the vast majority of people think that ‘what I believe is right and if you don’t agree with me, then you are wrong,’ I looked at him like this was the first time I considered this theory and he says ‘what do you think war is?”
Well I know that.
Bottom line, honesty builds trust, integrity and respect. Those are traits that I want in my personal relationships. My husband is right, I do have to choose who I deliver my truth to because I don’t want to hurt feelings. If I have to carefully construct a sentence before I talk to you for fear that you will be offended by my honesty, then you belong on the outskirts with the other nobodies. You can’t have a real trusting respectful relationship, whilst hiding behind your social mask. I will graciously accept that my honesty is not received in the spirit in which it is intended, and I will for all future encounters have my mask well and truly in place.
Ultimately, that is what sugar-coating is. It is choosing to change your message to suit the person you deliver it to. It is hiding your true feelings and beliefs in preference for a slightly less difficult or more acceptable one. It is wearing your mask for fear of rejection.
In my mind, if I can discard the mask and feel free to say something real, or potentially offensive, you can at least take heart in the fact that I value our relationship.